Corona Heights Community Garden - A Diamond in the Rough
The Corona Heights Community Garden was founded by David Sexton and Bob Burnside. The garden is located in Corona Heights Park, adjacent to the Randall Museum bordering States Street.
By Alex Hatch
If you have never been up to Corona Heights Community Garden it’s time to take a hike and have a look. And while you are there, ask yourself this question, “How did this garden get started?” Community gardens begin with the same ingredients, an empty, unsightly lot owned by the city which is unproductive and interested, active neighbors.
In the case of Corona Heights Community Garden, the founders, David Sexton and Bob Burnside, are both activists and designers. After two years of meetings to overcome neighborhood opposition and planning with city agencies, this small garden became a reality in 1995. It has been flourishing since then and now there is a waiting list for plots. That is the success story of many gardens.
Thirty years earlier, residents living near Corwin and Douglass streets in Eureka Valley staged the first sit-in against developers to save precious open space. Their actions resulted indirectly in the establishment of Corwin Street Community Garden in 1993. It is a beautiful California native plant garden and a testament to those early activists.
It is important to review a little of the history behind the community garden movement in San Francisco. In the 1970s, the federally funded Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) created vocational programs for youth that made a dramatic contribution to the growth of the community gardening movement.
A case in point is the Marina Community Garden at Fort Mason that was founded by two CETA members and used as a teaching garden for the students of Marina High School.
When CETA was discontinued in the 1980s, the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG) was founded to fill the void. The number of community gardens increased until the gardens administered by SLUG were absorbed by the Recreation and Parks Department of San Francisco in 2004.
The role of community gardens today is changing from saving open space to the more serious problem of local food production. The movement to eat locally produced food has placed community gardens into a new light. People who never gardened before in their backyards or anywhere else are now interested and looking for potential new locations for gardens. New gardens, rather than being coaxed out of debris filled lots, will be perched on rooftops, in front yards and in empty lots that are privately owned.
The network of gardens, begun in the early 1960s, continues to spread throughout San Francisco making it a healthier and more beautiful place to live and work.
The following web sites have great information on community gardens:
Alex Hatch is the author of Cracks in the Asphalt: Community Gardens of San Francisco (cracksintheasphalt.com).